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NZDSN OPINION: Where Is The Independent Body Awarding Funding To The Disabled Sector?

New Zealanders reading about politicians’ pay rises today can be forgiven for wondering why this is the priority now.

Yes, we know politicians’ wages are awarded by an independent body. As it should be. If I were an MP today, headlines about more money in my pocket in gloomy economic times is pretty inconvenient.

If the money, or indeed the gold plated Superannuation scheme that kicks in after nine years in parliament are really factors in talented people choosing to dedicate their career to politics, then great.

Here’s the but – the timing is off, and the authority should pay more attention to the economic reality out there. Public service layoffs. Cutbacks everywhere, and lack of funding for services.

The Disability sector, supporting extremely vulnerable disabled New Zealanders and employing people undertaking draining and challenging work for low or minimum wages, could really use that funding. We’ve calculated that between funding cuts and inflation increases, we’re effectively 24% behind where we need to be.

Rather than put the boot into politicians for taking a pay rise, I’m asking can we have a more realistic conversation about where public money is invested.

If there’s funding for landlord tax breaks, tax cuts come hell or high water and yes, MP pay rises, then can we have the same for our most vulnerable? Without an independent body looking out for their interests, disabled New Zealanders’ only chance of a meaningful increase in the quality of their care, is the politicians.

If you want to know a government’s values, you simply need to follow the money. We can only hope the review of Whaikaha’s financial problems and indeed this month’s Budget proves the coalition is prepared to step up and prioritise supporting vulnerable disabled New Zealanders.

Peter Reynolds, NZDSN CEO

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